The Runaway Bride

Maud Fowler was my second cousin once removed. She was one of the eight children of William Wesley Fowler and Hannah Wright. The family lived in Garnettsville, in Meade County, Kentucky, a little town on the banks of Otter Creek that is now extinct, having been swallowed up by the military installation at Fort Knox. William supported his family in 1900 as a fisherman, an indication that area trout fishing was at least as good back then as it is today. Census records tell us that by 1910 William had been appointed Meade County Postmaster.

Maud and her daddy made the news in 1907 when she and her intended, Joseph Shelton, also of Meade County, eloped. In fact, the story made the front page of the Louisville Courier-Journal on June 23, 1907:


Miss Maud Fowler and Joseph Shelton, of Rockhaven,
Reach Louisville and Wed In Jeffersonville.
After undergoing a number of hardships on the way, Joseph Shelton, who will be twenty-four years old in October, and Miss Maud Fowler, who was eighteen a few days ago, reached Jeffersonville yesterday and were married by Magistrate Charles S. Ferguson after eloping from Rockhaven, Meade county, Ky. Part of the journey was made on foot and a portion of it on a train. For several miles they were pursued by the father of Miss Fowler, but for some reason he gave up the chase. The bride is a pretty young woman and was attired in a white duck suit that she slipped out of her home and carried with her in a bundle until she reached Louisville, where she dressed for the wedding.

In her hurry to get away Miss Fowler left home without a hat, but in Louisville borrowed one from a friend until she could get a new one, which was purchased by her prospective husband. The strain Miss Fowler underwent did not affect her nerves until it came time for her to sign her name to an application for a marriage license. She then said it was a hard matter for her to write. Nothing was said at the courthouse in Jeffersonville about the eventful trip.

Shelton visited the courthouse Friday afternoon with Roy Smith, a Louisville friend, and was under the impression he could secure the license without Miss Fowler being present, but was told he could not do so. He said she was at Rockhaven, but that he would go back after her and be at the courthouse yesterday afternoon. He made out the application blank for himself, paid for the license and left instructions for a Magistrate to be called in time to perform the marriage ceremony. Shelton then went back to Rockhaven, managed to get Miss Fowler out of the house after night and across country afoot they started for Hardin county, where they expected to catch a train at a small town on the Illinois Central railway.

At the point Shelton has relatives and arriving there late in the night, tired and footsore after a walk of seven miles, during part of which they were pursued by William Fowler, father of Miss Fowler, they remained until break of day, when the train came along. This they boarded and on reaching Louisville they found Smith in waiting. Miss Fowler discarded her travel-stained attire, put on that she carried with her as quickly as possible and hurried to Jeffersonville. Up to this time the elopers had not taken time to wash, but after reaching Indiana soil this was one of the first things attended to and at the millinery Miss Fowler rearranged her toilet.

When Shelton, Miss Fowler and Smith reached the courthouse, they were several hours ahead of time, but it so happened that Magistrate Ferguson, who did not know of their coming, was there and ready to serve them. The papers were completed and after Smith had made an affidavit the license was issued. The groom is a railroad man and a son of Charles Shelton, who lives at Rock Haven. The bride gave her occupation as that of a milliner. She is a native of Meade county, Ky.

Maud and Joe were married for sixty years, had four children, seven grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren. Although the article describing their nuptials described Joe as a railroad man, in 1920 he was making a living as a fisherman on the Salt River in West Point, Kentucky, much like his father-in-law had done. The family moved to a farm in Bullitt County, Kentucky, and Joe made his living off the land instead of pulling it from the waters. Maud kept up her sewing skills, working as a seamstress in 1940. Joe died in 1967 at the age of 85, and Maud followed in 1969, aged 78.


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